The Norman Transcript

Sports

July 21, 2008

Missouri's fix

Tigers must win conference to keep moving forward

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — There usually isn’t a certain moment when a football team’s status changes. It might occur after a big win or a big season. But once it happens, the intensity level each Saturday changes.

The crowd noise gets louder at home and away. The spotlight gets brighter. Opponents become more focused. Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel knows what it means for the Tigers.

“We used to be the hunters and now we’re the hunted,” he said Monday afternoon at Big 12 Football Media Days.

It’s a fact of life for the Tigers this season. Everything they do over the remaining months of 2008 will be compared to last season.

The Tigers, who went 12-2 last season, are the overwhelming pick to win the Big 12 North for the second straight year, and a fashionable pick to win the conference and compete for a national championship.

Those expectations aren’t laid upon middle-of-the-pack programs. It’s the leaders who get them.

Missouri made its move in 2007. It went from a team typically on the fringe of the polls that typically receives a middle-tier bowl bid to national championship contention and the Big 12 title game.

“We certainly haven’t arrived,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. “We won the Big 12 North last year, but Missouri still hasn’t won a Big 12 championship yet.”

Most teams in BCS conferences have had that one season when they were among college football’s elite. Doing it on a consistent is a harder feat. Those that can brag about years, decades and generations of sustained success belong to a very exclusive fraternity.

In the Big 12, only Oklahoma, Texas and Nebraska have that kind of tradition.

Everyone is still striving to get there. The Tigers believe they have what it takes to take that next step.

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